SAS and Unisys Partner for BI on Linux

Companies ally to develop enterprise-ready Linux solutions running on top of Unisys hardware

Last month, computing and services giant Unisys Corp. became the latest vendor to join the move to BI Linux, announcing a partnership with BI stalwart SAS Institute Inc. to develop enterprise-ready Linux solutions running on top of Unisys hardware.

The deal is the second in as many months for SAS, which in September announced a partnership with Intel Corp. to port its SAS 9 BI suite to Linux running on top of Intel’s 64-bit Itanium 2 microprocessors.

It’s also another feather in the (figurative) cap of Linux, which has seen a spate of recent interest from BI vendors. In September, for example, Sybase Inc. announced the availability of a free version of its Sybase Adaptive Server Enterprise (ASE) Express Edition for Linux, and this summer, Cognos Inc., Actuate Corp., Siebel Systems Inc., and Information Builders all made major Linux-related announcements. Siebel, for example, reversed course and disclosed plans to port its CRM 7.7 to Linux, while Actuate announced the availability of its Actuate 8 reporting suite for Linux. Cognos and Information Builders announced ports of their own products, ReportNet and WebFOCUS respectively, to Linux running on IBM’s Power microprocessors.

What’s surprising is that comparatively few customers are purchasing Linux-based BI solutions. “We really are at the inflection point of Linux in the enterprise. Up until today, it was really deployed in a Web infrastructure,” claims Derek Rodnor, senior marketing manager for Linux enterprise solutions with Unisys. “Although we want to be on the cutting edge of the technology most of the time, it’s also important not to be on that bleeding edge. We feel today now is a point where our customers, those mission critical enterprise customers, are looking to adopt” Linux-based BI solutions.

SAS officials take a similarly pragmatic view. “I think that’s true. If you laid all of the opportunities on the table, is Linux a huge share of that? No, but we are seeing an increase … of specific requests in some sectors, enough so that it made it a beneficial choice to try to pursue this,” commented Rob Stephens, director of technology strategy with SAS, last month.

Past Unisys and SAS collaboration has included a prepackaged, turnkey analytics offering, called Z3 Customer Analytics, that exploited SAS software optimized to run on Unisys’ ES7000 servers. The two partners positioned Z3 Customer Analytics as a complement to existing customer relationship management (CRM) and business intelligence (BI) solutions.

To a large degree, that’s the same model Unisys and SAS seem to have in mind for their nascent Linux partnership. The announcement itself is strictly forward-looking: Rodnor says Unisys will collaborate with SAS to develop scaleable, end-to-end business intelligence and analytic solutions running on Linux. Lest anyone dismiss this as mere marketing bluster, Rodnor points to Unisys’ track record with Windows, where it developed the first data-center-ready Windows systems with its ES7000 servers, which support 32-bit Xeon and 64-bit Itanium 2 chips and can scale up to 32-processors.

“SAS and Unisys have been working together for a number of years, especially in that enterprise Windows space, and now that Linux is beginning to have a scalable offering for mission-critical computing, the idea is that we’re going to do for Linux what we did for Windows,” he explains. “Our goal is to create an ecosystem if you will for that enterprise class computing arena. It’s similar to where we were with Windows in particular. We feel that we’re very much in the same position today with Linux.”

Like other vendors, Unisys sees potential Linux-related BI uptake in specific vertical markets, such as financial services and healthcare.

SAS’ Stephens has said that most of the BI-on-Linux uptake he’s seen has taken place in the financial services industry. In this respect, he said, the 64-bit address space, large cache, and high performance of Intel’s Itanium 2 processors are well suited for many of the applications these customers are most likely to run. “We have some customers there that are pursuing a sort of overall enterprise BI type of deployment, and … that really does touch more than just query and reporting, but also processing of ETL run streams, getting it to the data mart, … or stepping in and leveraging predictive analytics,” he concluded.

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About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.

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